Any violinist, from beginner to teacher, can find inspiration in the words of the world’s greatest violinists. Their insight on their craft, the violin, the arts, and life are all touchstones for our own personal and musical development.
The following collection of inspirational quotes from violinists were sourced from a variety of websites, like BrainyQuotes, WikiQuote, and Quotes-Inspirational. Quotes taken from interview articles or videos have the relevant link included in the quote presented below.
- Jascha Heifetz: "The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience."
- Ivry Gitlis on conflict in music: "When people say, ‘This quartet is wonderful – the players all sound the same,’ it’s terrible. What is democracy? It’s not that everyone should think the same – that’s a dictatorship. A real democracy is where people are individuals, and because of that they have an interest in living together and they find things to agree or disagree with. When you play together you shouldn’t follow each other – you should each be yourself and get together somehow. Look at the Amadeus Quartet – each one of them was a completely different person, but what they did together was the most beautiful thing you can think of."
- Sarah Chang: "When you're very young and you play with an orchestra – I debuted with the New York Philharmonic – they call you a prodigy and that name sticks with you even when you're 15 or 16. What I liked even then, though, was that the conductors treated me like a colleague, not like a 'prodigy,' ... Then, when I would be invited back, it became a wonderful cycle for me: I would create friends at these places, such as New York and Berlin, and they have watched me grow up."
- Isaac Stern: "Music is the thousandth of a millisecond between one note and another; how you get from one to the other-that's where the music is."
- George Enescu: "The artist reveals to mankind the way to harmony, which is happiness and peace."
- Julia Fischer reveals that her favorite musician of all time is a pianist: "I’ve always been a huge Glenn Gould fan, and that never changed. With every other idol I’ve had, and I’ve had a few, of course…it went up and down. But Glenn Gould is the only one which my entire life has always been an idol."
- Midori Goto: "Honesty comes only with sound health, physically and psychologically, and an honest mind cannot be separated from the most genuine acknowledgment of expression. It should be recognized that pure perfection is unobtainable. Therefore, the realization that one's irrevocable faults and deficiencies must be faced, guides us toward the first step of learning. We must each accept any situation as it actually is, with dignity. In that fine balance of acceptance of self and the mission to better oneself, compassion, humility, and discipline are nurtured."
- Joshua Bell: "Art and music is part of what it means to be a human being. And if you're neglecting that, you're basically ignoring a huge side of the brain and a huge side of what it means to be human."
- Janine Jansen: "A wrong note played with the right intention is much to be preferred to the right note played with no soul."
- Fritz Kreisler: "Genius is an overused word. The world has known only about a half dozen geniuses. I got only fairly near."
- Nigel Kennedy: "If you're playing within your capability, what's the point? If you're not pushing your own technique to its own limits with the risk that it might just crumble at any moment, then you're not really doing your job."
- Gidon Kremer: "It is far more important that someone plays music for which they feel a special affinity and have something individual to say than mere technical perfection. Perfection is in itself limited – the message should take us beyond perfection."
- Yehudi Menuhin: "The violinist must possess the poet's gift of piercing the protective hide which grows on propagandists, stockbrokers and slave traders, to penetrate the deeper truth which lies within."
- Shinichi Suzuki: "Tone has the living soul."
- Viktoria Mullova on improvisation: "It was difficult at the beginning but the more we do it on stage the more fun it is. I started by studying some improvisation by Miles Davis and tried to play it in different keys to learn the language. It was terrifying at first. I couldn’t understand it or believe how people who improvise, especially on the violin, can play all these notes so fast. It seemed impossible. Then you realize there are patterns and it’s a language you can learn. But you have to have the time and inclination. You can’t just pick it up and start improvising. It’s a skill."
- Niccolo Paganini: "In order to move others, I must be moved."
- Itzhak Perlman: "If you put your hand on the piano, you play a note. It's in tune. But if you put it on the violin, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. You have to figure it out."
- Maxim Vengerov speaking at masterclass at the Royal Academy of Music: "Who says it has to be beautiful? Is nature always beautiful? Nature is beautiful because it’s not always how we expect it to be."
Here are quotes from three amateur violinists who, while they loved playing the violin, earned their achievements in other arenas – Some quotes from accomplished people who play/ed violin as a side gig/hobby:
- Charlie Chaplin, giant actor, comedian and filmmaker of the Silent Movie Era: "Each week I took [violin] lessons from the theatre conductor or from someone he recommended. As I played left-handed, my violin was strung left-handed with the bass-bar and sounding post reversed. I had great ambitions to be a concert artist, or, failing that, to use it in a vaudeville act." Read about his use of music/violin in his movies here.
- Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and writer of the "Declaration of Independence." Excerpts from his and his contemporaries' personal letters tell us that Jefferson often played violin at social gatherings. An article from the "Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia" states that "Jefferson wrote that music was 'invaluable,' and that it 'furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life.' "
- Marlene Dietrich, German actress from the Golden Age of Movies might be considered a professional violinist, as her first job in the theatre was playing violin in the pit orchestra for silent films. Her dream was to be a professional violinist, but she was fired after a month. A fitting end to this article, Dietrich was quoted as saying, "I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself."
If you want to hear from more musicians, you can read another collection of inspirational quotes here.
Above image of Sarah Chang photographed by Seihon Cho, courtesy of sarahchang.com